According to new data released yesterday (PDF) from the U.S. Census Bureau, Southern states — including many Bible Belt ones — had some of the highest rates of divorce for both men and women in the country.
Nine of the 14 states with divorce rates for women above the U.S. average, ranging from 10.7 to 16.2, were in the South. They included Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
By comparison, four of the 10 states with below-average divorce rates for women, ranging from 6.0 to 8.9, were in the Northeast: Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Why might that be?
“In the South, there are higher rates of marriage and higher rates of divorce for men and women,” said Diana Elliott, a family demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau and co-author of the new report. “In the Northeast, you have people who are delaying first marriages, and consequently there are lower rates of marriage and lower rates of divorce.”
Youth and lack of education can lead to higher divorce rates, said D’Vera Cohn, a senior writer with the Pew Research Center, who wrote a report on “The States of Marriage and Divorce.” There’s also an interactive map on the website.
“There tend to be higher divorce rates in states where women marry young,” Cohn said. “Education also may play a role. In general, less educated women marry at younger ages than college-educated women, and less educated couples have higher divorce rates.”
If someone has time, I’d love to see what the correlation is between divorce rates in each state compared to the percentage of people in each state who declare themselves religious “nones” (according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (PDF)).
(Thanks to Greg for the link!)